Not something I’ll do every day, but over on QuakerQuaker I cross-referenced today’s One Year Bible readings with Esther Greenleaf Murer’s Quaker Bible Index. Here’s the link to my post about today: First Month 20: Joseph rises to power in Egypt; Jesus’ parable of wheat & tares and pearls. It’s a particularly rich reading today. Jesus talks about the wheat and the weeds aka the corn and the tares, an interesting parable about letting the faithful and the unfaithful grow together.
As if knowing today is Inauguration Day, Isaac Penington turned it into a political reference: “But oh, how the laws and governments of this world are to be lamented over! And oh, what need there is of their reformation, whose common work it is to pluck up the ears of corn, and leave the tares standing!”
Margaret Fell sees the wheat and tares as an example of jealousy and false ministry: “Oh how hath this envious man gotten in among you. Surely he hath come in the night, when men was asleep: & hath sown tares among the wheat, which when the reapers come must be bound in bundles and cast into the fire, for I know that there was good seed sown among you at the first, which when it found good ground, would have brought forth good fruit; but since there are mixed seedsmen come among you & some hath preached Christ of envy & some of good will, … & so it was easy to stir up jealousy in you, you having the ground of jealousy in yourselves which is as strong as death.”
We get poetry from the seventeen century Elizabeth Bathurst (ahem) when she writes that “the Seed (or grace) of God, is small in its first appearance (even as the morning -light), but as it is given heed to, and obeyed, it will increase in brightness, till it shine in the soul, like the sun in the firmament at noon-day height.”
The parable of the tares became a call for tolerance in George Fox’s understanding: “For Christ commands christian men to “love one another [John 13:34, etc], and love their enemies [Mat 5:44];” and so not to persecute them. And those enemies may be changed by repentance and conversion, from tares to wheat. But if men imprison them, and spoil and destroy them, they do not give them time to repent. So it is clear it is the angels’ work to burn the tares, and not men’s.”
A century later, Sarah Tuke Grubb read and worried about religious education and Quaker drift: “But for want of keeping an eye open to this preserving Power, a spirit of indifference hath crept in, and, whilst many have slept, tares have been sown [Mat 13:25]; which as they spring up, have a tendency to choke the good seed; those tender impressions and reproofs of instruction, which would have prepared our spirits, and have bound them to the holy law and testimonies of truth.”
I hope all this helps us remember that the Bible is our book too and an essential resource for Friends. It’s easy to forget this and kind of slip one way or another. One extreme is getting our Bible fix from mainstream Evangelical Christian sources whose viewpoints might be in pretty direct opposition from Quaker understandings of Jesus and the Gospel (see Jeanne B’s post on The New Calvinism or Tom Smith’s very reasonable concerns about the literalism at the One Year Bible Blog I read and recommend). On the other hand, it’s not uncommon in my neck of the Quaker woods to describe our religion as “Quaker,” downgrade Christianity by making it optional, unmentionable or non-contextual and turning to the Bible only for the obligatory epistle reference.
This was first made clear to me a few years ago by the margins in the modern edition of Samuel Bownas’ “A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Ministry,” which were peppered with the Biblical references Bownas was casually citing throughout. On my second reading (yes it’s that good!) I started looking up the references and realized that: 1) Bownas wasn’t just making this stuff up or quoting willy-nilly; and 2) reading them helped me understand Bownas and by extension the whole concept of Quaker ministry. You’re not reading my blog enough if you’re not getting the idea that this is one of the kind of practices that Robin, Wess and I are going to be talking about at the Convergent workshop next month. If you can figure out the transport then get yourself to Cali pronto and join us.